California drought: Tahoe officials urge curbing outdoor watering during high season | SierraSun.com

California drought: Tahoe officials urge curbing outdoor watering during high season

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com

TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — While statistics suggest residents are curbing water use, officials are urging more conservation as the region enters the high-summer period that historically sees greater consumption.

The North Tahoe Public Utility District is reporting a 35 percent reduction in residential water use for May, with 96.9 gallons per capita, per day in 2015, compared to 149 gallons in 2013.

The district attributes this to several factors, including public outreach, customers working to reduce usage and mandatory conservation measures, said Pam Emmerich, NTPUD technology and public information administrator.

Previous months have also seen a decrease when compared to 2013 — 20 gallons fewer (23.9 percent) in April, 15.3 gallons (18.8 percent) in March, 5.6 gallons (7 percent) in February, and 12 gallons (10.9 percent) in January.

"While very encouraging to see this reduction, residents are asked to stay vigilant to their water usage once their irrigation is turned on again after the unusually high precipitation received in May," the NTPUD said in a statement. "It is estimated that more than 50 percent of water is used outside the home."

THE PEAK SEASON PROBLEM

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According to district figures for 2013 and 2014, the average daily residential water consumption jumps during the months of May through September, with peak usage in July. In July 2013, usage was 193.2 residential gallons per capita, per day, and 209.7 in 2014.

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Similarly, the Truckee Donner Public Utility District normally sees a summer jump, largely dominated by outdoor irrigation, said Steven Poncelet, district public information and conservation manager.

"Reducing outdoor water usage — that's where you have the biggest opportunity to save water," he said.

Ways to reduce outdoor use include installing rain senors ­— which the TDPUD offers — planting native and drought-tolerant plants, and incorporating nonplant elements in one's landscape, Poncelet said.

Meanwhile, TDPUD water customers can only water their landscapes with potable water two days a week — Tuesdays and Fridays — in order to comply with state regulations.

For NTPUD customers, watering is limited to three days. Properties with street addresses that end in an even number may irrigate on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Properties with odd street addresses may irrigate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

'THERE WILL BE MORE WATER USE'

Tahoe City Public Utility District water customers face similar outdoor irrigation restrictions to NTPUD customers, with watering limited to three days per week on the same address schedule.

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READ MORE: Tahoe-Truckee districts adopt water conservation measures amid California drought.

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In addition, watering is prohibited for 48 hours during and after measurable precipitation. So, too, is irrigation that causes excess runoff and washing down of hard outdoor surfaces, according to the latest California emergency drought regulations.

Both the NTPUD and TDPUD must reduce water consumption by 28 percent from their 2013 levels, while TCPUD has to by 20 percent, as dictated by the state.

"We know that once the temperatures rise and more people are here and irrigating, there will be more water use," Emmerich said. "We need everyone to stay diligent to make sure we continue to see the reductions we are required to achieve.

"Without the help of our part-time residents and their guests, we will not meet our goals."

This marks the fourth year of consecutive drought for the state, with California State Water Resources Control Board expanding emergency regulations in March.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 71.08 percent of California is in "extreme drought," and 46.73 percent (including the greater Tahoe-Truckee area) is in "exceptional drought" as of June 23.

By the numbers

North Tahoe Public Utility District residential gallons per capita, per day:

96.9 gallons: May 2015

143.3 gallons: May 2014

149 gallons: May 2013

35 percent: Two-year water use reduction for May

Visit ntpud.org/conservation to see additional stats and to learn more.